Now in its second generation, the drop-top supercar has dialed the sharpness up a notch without straying too far from the model before it.

Following its introduction earlier this year at the New York Auto Show, the new R8 Spyder is back to show off its evolutionary design that might tempt some people to say it’s merely a facelift of the first generation. In reality, the second iteration of Audi’s drop-top supercar brings some notable changes, starting off with the increase in width of 36 millimtres (1.4 inches. While the wheelbase has remained the same, overall length has decreased thanks to the shorter front and rear overhangs.

The body panels may look familiar, but the torsional rigidity of the new R8 Spyder is up by more than 50 percent compared to its predecessor. The body weighs only 208 kilograms (458 pounds), while the fabric roof tips the scales at a mere 44 kg (97 lbs). Overall, the car weighs just 1,612 kg (3,553 lbs) without any fluids, and almost 80 percent of the components are manufactured from aluminum to enable the lightweight construction also possible by implementing carbon fibre.

While its predecessor was also offered with a 4.2-litre V8, the new generation can be had at the moment exclusively in a 5.2-litre V10 flavour. Shared with the Lamborghini Huracan, the engine is still naturally aspirated and in this application it pumps out 540 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque.

The numerous mechanical upgrades implemented by Audi in the second gen have slashed two tenths of a second from the 0-100 kilometres per hour (0-62 miles per hour) sprint time, now taking just 3.6 seconds. Not like there are a lot of places where you can actually (and legally) take it all out, but top speed has increased by seven km/h (4.3 mph) to an impressive 318 km/h (198 mph).

Beyond the sharper design and the hardware revisions, the second generation also adopts a more high-tech interior with that fantastic 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster. Offered as optional equipment on some other lesser models, the Audi Virtual Cockpit is standard on the R8 Spyder and has a special performance view providing the driver with important info such as the 5.2 FSI’s output, g-forces, lap time, as well as the temperature of the engine, tires, and the transmission fluid. To further boost the sense of sportiness, the tachometer sits in the center of the screen.

As you would imagine, the whole package doesn’t come cheap. At home in Germany, the 2017 R8 Spyder carries a starting price of €179,000 (approx. $258,000 CAD). Audi will kick off customer deliveries in Europe this fall, while in the United States and Canada it will arrive later on at a yet undisclosed price tag. Needless to say, the open-top thrills will command a serious premium over the R8 Coupe.

A more affordable R8 is already in the works and it will use a biturbo 2.9-litre V6 found in the new Porsche Panamera 4S. It remains to be seen how much power it will deliver in the entry-level R8, but we do know that in Stuttgart’s gorgeous sedan it has 440 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. According to a leaked roadmap, the V6-powered R8 will be launched in the U.S. in 2018, so it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume Europeans will likely get it as early as next year.

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